I've had a recent question that i'd love to answer.
"I was wondering though, what do you think of sugar vs. cane sugar/stevia/birch sugar etc. and the effects of such on general health and dental health?"
To my knowledge, sugar, is the cause of many imbalances in the human body. Pure Cane Sugar is a modern processed food that was not found in any traditional societies. Sugar Cane in it's whole form is the exception to this (it grows naturally in a few places in the world.)
Sugar in and of itself, imbalances the body, because, when we eat it, for our bodies to process it, takes minerals out of our bones. It throws off the magnesium/phosphorus ratio in our blood. (So our body goes to the bones to pull out what it needs to deal with the sugar.) This leads to osteoporosis, dental decay, poor bone formation in children and fetuses, and has been linked to many childhood learning and behavioral disorders.
As far as dental health goes, I've read into this a lot. I've been plagued with tooth decay my entire life, up until the last year or so. I significantly cut sugar and processed foods out of my life. Sugar pulls minerals out from your teeth and bones, leading to weak enamel. Most dentists claim that sugar on the outside is the problem, but it's only a small part of it. It's nutrient imbalances in the blood, caused by sugar, that are pulling nutrients away from your teeth and to more "important" parts of the body like your heart, brain and organs. (For example, your body needs a perfect amount of calcium in the blood for proper functioning.) If you aren't getting these nutrients (ie: calcium, magnesium, phosporus) in your diet, and aren't ABSORBING them, then your body is going to pull from your teeth first. The mouth is a gateway to the health of the rest of the body. We can see through the health of the mouth- what is going on in the rest of the body.
If you are eating sugar, you are partly inhibiting your bodies ability to absorb those minerals because they are being bound up with the sugar to help your body deal with it.
You could eat lots of sugar and keep your teeth sparkling clean- but it's not going to matter how clean your teeth are- because it's what's going on in your blood and the inside of your teeth- minerals being pulled out from them. You will still have tooth decay if the imbalance in your blood stays there. (I had to learn this the hard way. No matter how clean my teeth were, I always had cavities. It wasn't till I started getting the nutrients my teeth needed in abundance and learned how to absorb them by eating lots of natural fats, that I stopped getting cavities.)
The ways to avoid tooth decay are to:
- eat mineral dense foods (pasture-raised animal foods, organic vegetables, homemade bone broths),
- with fat soluble activators (cream, whole milk, lard, coconut oil), and
- eat enzyme rich foods (whole yogurt, raw sauerkraut, homemade pickles, lacto-fermented drinks and vegetables) for a healthy gut- so your body can have lots of enzymes and healthy bacteria to absorb nutrients.
- And TO cut out white sugar!! (and white flour, ie: processed foods.)
Once you've gotten your body to point where you aren't having cravings and you've built your body back up, I don't see a problem with having brownies or cookies or cakes, made from whole ingredients, because your body will be in a place where it can cope with and absorb nutrients from all the other foods you are eating. (I'll admit I still have white sugar for cookies, but its not the main part of my diet or in a lot of things i'm eating, so it's not a big deal.)
As for types of sugar- generally they all have this effect mineral sucking on varying levels. Unrefined and Unbleached whole cane sugar still has nutrients intact from the whole cane . This would be a reasonable substitution, knowing that sugar still imbalances the body (but at least this kind is "whole".) The unrefined sugar goes through little processing, only squeezing, filtering, drying and grinding. White sugar is filtered, seperated, vacuum thickened, centrifuged, seperated again leaving two seperate things: mollasses and white sugar. Basically all the nutritent qualities are left in the molasses, leaving...pretty much nothing in the white sugar- it's a processed food with nothing redeeming about it.
Organic sugar, is no different that white sugar, besides the fact that it's pesticide and GMO free.
Stevia i'm not familiar with as much, but it's a "newfangled" food in my book, so I avoid it. It's so overpoweringly sweet to me anyway, that I don't like it! ( I think it could throw off your brain sensory mechanism and over-produce insulin to deal with something SO sweet.)
Good sugar substitutions that still have nutrients include: maple syrup, raw honey, maple sugar, and I think organic whole cane sugar is reasonable because it's still "whole".
If you have any questions about how to substitute these sugars in recipes let me know.